The decision of a Florida appeals court may well impact civil lawsuits regarding personal injury and potentially product liability for years to come. The specific case on which the judges ruled was a slip-and-fall lawsuit against the retail giant Target.
During the trial, Target asked for access to the woman's Facebook page. Specifically, the defendants wanted to see photos that the woman had posted there. That request was granted by the state court. However, the plaintiff asked the Florida appeals court to quash that discovery order. That request was denied by the three-judge panel.
In their Jan. 7 decision, the judges said that individuals have few if any rights to privacy regarding information posted on social media, regardless of their privacy settings. They also said that photos posted on social media provide necessary information regarding a plaintiff's life prior to an accident.
The judge who wrote the unanimous opinion said that because some information "may be copied and disseminated by another, the expectation that such information is private, in the traditional sense of the word, is not a reasonable one." He noted, "If a photograph is worth a thousand words, there is no better portrayal of what an individual's life was like than those photographs the individual has chosen to share through social media before the occurrence of an accident causing injury."
This decision should put anyone who files a personal injury or product liability lawsuit on notice that anything they have shared via social media, whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other sites, can be used by defendants in any case that they bring against them. Florida personal injury attorneys can help advice people on the sharing of personal information online and how it can impact their individual case.
Source: District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fourth District, "Maria F. Leon Nucci and Henry Leaon, her husband, Petitioners, v. Target Corporations, American Cleaning Contracting, Inc. and First Choice Building Maintenance, Inc. Respondents." Julie Kay, Jan. 07, 2015